Jury Convicts Rioter Who Blamed Trump

Defense argued Dustin Thompson was unemployed and vulnerable to conspiracy theories
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 14, 2022 4:08 PM CDT
Rioter Who Blamed Trump's Orders Convicted
Dustin Thompson, right, arrives at US District Courthouse in Columus, Ohio, in January to turn himself in. His lawyer, Samual Shamansky, is at left.   (Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

(Newser) – An Ohio man who testified he was "following presidential orders" from Donald Trump when he stormed the US Capitol was convicted Thursday of obstructing Congress from certifying Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory. A federal jury also found Dustin Byron Thompson, 38, guilty of stealing a coat rack from an office in the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the AP reports. Jurors deliberated less than three hours before reaching a verdict, rejecting Thompson's novel defense. He blamed Trump and members of the president's inner circle for the insurrection and for his own actions. Thompson, who had been free since his arrest, was ordered held pending sentencing on July 20.

Thompson's jury trial was the third among hundreds of Capitol riot cases prosecuted by the Justice Department. In the first two cases, jurors convicted both defendants of all charges. An exterminator who lost his job during the pandemic, Thompson was the first riot defendant to mount a trial defense blaming Trump and members of his inner circle for the insurrection. Assistant US Attorney William Dreher told jurors that Thompson knew he was breaking the law when he joined the mob that attacked the Capitol and, in his case, looted the Senate parliamentarian's office. Thompson's lawyer "wants you to think you have to choose between President Trump and his client," the prosecutor said. "You don't have to choose because this is not President Trump's trial. This is the trial for Dustin Thompson."

His defense attorney said Thompson hasn't avoided taking responsibility. "This shameful chapter in our history is all on TV," Samuel Shamansky told jurors. But he said Thompson, unemployed and consumed by a steady diet of conspiracy theories, was vulnerable to Trump's lies about a stolen election. He described Thompson as a "pawn" and Trump as a "gangster" who abused his power to manipulate supporters. US District Judge Reggie Walton barred the defense from calling Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as witnesses. But the judge allowed jurors to hear recordings of speeches that Trump and Giuliani delivered on Jan. 6, just before the riot. Thompson testified that he joined the mob attack and stole a coat rack and a bourbon from the Senate parliamentarian's office. "I can't believe the things that I did," he said.

(Read more Capitol riot stories.)

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